Friday, December 30, 2005

Funky Friday - Hiatus On The Horizon

Matt Chicoine, AKA Recloose has finally released a new LP called Hiatus On The Horizon. It's the long awaited follow up to 2002's Cardiology. Originally from Detroit, famously discovered by Carl Craig (Matt worked in the deli where Carl got lunch and slipped his demo into his lunch bag) he is now living and working in New Zealand. His music is electronica - techy, house-y, leftfield, all of it infused with some major jazz chops - sampled horns and piano and bass lines everywhere. The new album picks up that thread, and spins it into some deep, soulful music. It's also largely vocal - songs with real singers, not instrumentals with samples. There's a lush feel to everything, a combination of smooth Detroit house, Philly soul vibes and even some of that old school Sly & Robbie & Gwen Guthrie disco vibe from the early '80s. Some of the more leftfield electronics have been dropped in favor of a smoother flow, but I don't mind. The jazz factor has been amped up too. There are boatloads of snazzy, snappy horn charts, all live and not sampled, including sax as played by Coleman Squakinz - great name. It's a beauty of a record. Still Beyond Me reminds me a lot of Padlock, the '80s disco project put together by Sly & Robbie & Gwen Guthrie. An uptempo disco jam, it's got a tight beat, smooth vocals by Hollie Smith. warm Rhodes awash in reverb and some smokin' horn riffs, not to mention the jangly guitar. Mana's Bounce is the tune that made me run to the stereo when this was in the 5 disc shuffler. It's a fantastically skanking jazz-ska-house hybrid - reminds me a bit of some old Lionrock tunes - that also features some cool, wiggy scratching. I love it. The album is out now as an import on Peacefrog Records, and it's totally worth dropping import dollars on if you're a fan of good, inventive, modern dance music. A sweet choice for the final Funky Friday of 2005!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Say Hello To My Little Remix

Back in March Beck released Guero, an album pitched somewhere between the party vibes of Odelay and the more adult themes of Sea Change. Reviews were mixed but I found myself liking it quite a bit. A couple weeks ago a remix album appeared, entitled Guerolito. Remixes are done by a broad palette of electro-stylists - Air, Adrock from the Beasties, 8Bit, Diplo and Subtle are just a few. Air bring their laid back vibe to Missing, retitled Heaven Hammer, and Diplo lifts a big chunk of The Beat's Twist & Crawl to use a backdrop for his remix of Go It Alone, retitled Wish Coin. Both are great versions. As a fan of the remix, I'm very happy with this set - some of these could even be seen as an improvement on the originals, which is so often not the case with remix albums. Ghost Range (E-Pro Remix By Homelife) is all over the place - there's twangy banjo plucking over jazzy vibraphone fighting the fuzzed out bass with swoony orchestral strings, and then fiddles come in and it's like a hoedown in the barn, except with some hip hop beats. Scarecrow (Remix By El P) is one I think is better in remixed form - El P brings his dark crunk to the song, with big clattery beats, key stabs and lots of fuzzed out guitars. Much head nodding goodness.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Dimanche A Bamako

I'm a big fan of Manu Chao. I loved his band Mano Negra - "the French Clash". They sang songs in French, Spanish and English, and their multi-culti rock music was a captivating mix of folk, punk, reggae and pop. After they split up in the '90s, Manu put out a couple of solo albums and a live set. Their spirit was the same, but it was stripped down and more acoustic. He has now taken his unique style and applied it to the new album from Malian duo Amadou & Mariam, called Dimanche A Bamako. They are a blind couple who have been recording together for over 20 years in west Africa, creating a tasty blend of Afro-pop and folk rock. This is their 10th album. Manu co-writes, sings and produces (a sticker on the CD cover has his name on it - it made me take notice of the CD and start paying attention to the reviews, mostly positive) and his imprint is unmistakable. The mix is full of sound - lilting, strummy reggae with street noises and voices punctuating everything. The duo sing beautifully of love and politics and their homeland, and Amadou plays some glorious guitar, ranging from surf rock to folk to scratchy and funky. It's a sunny set of songs that really benefit from Manu's collaboration, and I'm hooked. Here are a couple of tasty tracks for you to enjoy -
Beaux Dimanches
Senegal Fast Food

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Days Of Mars

The DFA label has been home to some of the coolest music being made these last few years - records by The Rapture, LCD Soundsystem, The Juan MacLean and Black Dice have fused punk-funk and electro with a hefty dose of experimentalism and "artiness". Back in October saw the label release The Days Of Mars, the debut album from Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom. The duo are New York based artists who work a lot with visual media as well as music. They also collaborate as Black Leotard Front - their 15 minute dance opus Casual Friday from earlier in the year (and also on last year's DFA Compilation #2) is still getting played at my house. Those of you looking for "DFA-beats-as-usual" will probably be sadly disappointed with the album. It is four tracks, each about 15 minutes long, all of it ambient electronics. Taking the spirit of Vangelis, Steve Reich, film maker John Carpenter's eerie synth scores, and the numerous '70s Italian electro-proggers like Goblin as the blueprint, the duo construct gently pulsing grooves that meander through the speakers. There is not a beat to be found. Some of you will find it very tedious, I'm sure. I have always enjoyed a bit of meandering aimlessness, and it abounds here. Rise has been previously heard in DFA remixed form on the afore mentioned Compilation#2, with beats added. It is a lovely bit of spacing out music. The rest of the record is more of the same - variations on this theme. Not for everyone, but a few of you might like it.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Funky Friday & I'm Feelin' Festive

I'd like to take a moment to thank all of you for making this such a good year for my little corner of the blogosphere. Traffic has grown by leaps and bounds, and it's been great hearing what you have to say about the tunes. You make it worthwhile for me to keep doing this little music geek thing here, and I thank you for your kind patronage. I hope this eclectic little four pack of holiday songs brings some joy to your day. Thank you...

Thornetta Davis - Funky Drummer Boy
The Waitresses - Xmas Wrapping
Miles Davis & Bob Dorough - Blue Xmas
Los Straitjackets - Here Comes Santa Claus

Merry Christmas - Happy Hannukah - Happy Kwanzaa - Happy Winter Solstice - Happy Whatever-it-is-you-do-or-do-not-celebrate!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Walking With A Ghost

The White Stripes have a new 6 track EP out called Walking With A Ghost. It's one new recording, the title track Walking With A Ghost (which is a cover of a Tegan and Sara tune) and then 5 live cuts - all songs from previous records. I don't know the original (I think I've only ever heard one Tegan and Sara song and it didn't move me), but several reviews have said that it's a pretty faithful rendition. It seems to me that it fits what the White Stripes do well - big riff, big drums, catchy chorus, trippy guitars. it's all there. The live tracks are also what you'd expect - stripped down and raw. Not an essential recording, but still kind of interesting.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


It only took 12 years but it finally happened - Kate Bush released a new album last month, a 2CD set called Aerial. I have always had a bit of a "hit and miss" thing with prog queen Kate, loving some things and not feeling others. Reviews of Aerial have been pretty positive, and the bloggers seem to like it too, so last weekend I took the plunge. It's only been played a couple of times this week, and that is nowhere near enough time to have an accurate review/opinion. That having been said, right away I knew I would like it. One of the first songs to "jump out at me" (does a Kate Bush record ever really "jump"?) is from disc one (subtitled A Sea Of Honey), and is called π (Pi). Yes, infinity has been transformed into a gently undulating pop song, full of burbling beats, a snaky bass line, blippy keys, gently strummed acoustic guitars and Kate actually sings the string of numbers. I get a real kick out of that leftfield approach, and here it's couched in such a beautiful piece of music that it transcends it's artiness. I look forward to getting to know the rest of this record.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


About a month ago I was in the car pulling into the driveway when a song started to play on the radio. I sit through the whole thing. It starts with a gigantically thick and chunky bass riff over pounding drums, playing an almost "Peter Gunn" like spy theme. Then some furious guitar kicks in. I'm thinking "is this the new Fever track? Or maybe the Moving Units?" Then the singer starts. It's clear that it's Julian Casablancas - this must be the new Strokes single. It is - there's no mistaking their style. It rocks. It's produced by David Kahne, and it sounds harder and meaner than they ever have. I like it. I buy the CD single this week. I like the b-side too - it's a tune called Hawaii. The single also contains the video for Juicebox but I haven't watched it yet. Anyway, here is your daily recommended dose of music to rock out to - enjoy The Strokes' Juicebox, a taster from their new album out the first week in January.

Monday, December 19, 2005

My '80s Remastered - Beauty Stab

The year was 1983. Martin Fry and his band ABC have conquered the world with their debut album, 1982's The Lexicon Of Love. A magnificent set of eminently hummable tunes as produced by Trevor Horn, critics loved it and so did pop fans. Poison Arrow & The Look Of Love were on radios all over the world, even making a splash across the pond in the US. When the time came to record it's follow up the band had slimmed to a three piece - drummer David Palmer was gone, on his way to becoming a premier session player and member of the '90s version of The The. The resulting album was called Beauty Stab, and it was a sharp shocker for their fan base to hear. Instead of Lexicon Part 2 with big, danceable faux soul hits, they had made a ROCK record. Big guitars, loads and loads of them, spinning off mighty riffs all over the place. The spirit of Roxy Music's late '70s/early '80s art rock is alive here, even down to the tasty sax breaks. The songs are still very ABC - the sharp lyricism, the occasionally goofy rhyme, and the great, hooky melodies. I remember being taken aback the first few times I played it, but I stuck with it and have always enjoyed it's one-off craziness. My bro and I used to rock this sucker back in the day. It has just recieved the expanded remastered treatment, so I knew I had to get me one. It's sound has held up pretty well. Produced by the band and Trevor Horn's studio doppleganger Gary Langan, it largely eschews the bad, '80s gated snare thing and instead is a fairly tough set of well produced rock music. There are a couple of bonus tracks, including an odd medley of songs from the LP that was originally released on a flexi disc. As for the Roxy Music comparisons - Roxy's drummer Andy Newmark and bassist Alan Spenner are the rhythm section on this. I've always thought that this record was better than what it got - bad reviews and largely ignored. I had a hard time choosing one or two songs so I'm going with three. Title track Beauty Stab is an instrumental - very Roxy with it's dance-y yet rocking sound and sax riffing. A big tune. King Money is equally big in the riff department. This tune kind of makes me think of David Bowie's China Girl - some of the guitars are very Nile Rodgers in that chikka-chikka way. I especially like the big, hard rocking break and find myself playing the air guitar. One of the big hits was S.O.S., and this is the tune that is closest to resembling anything from Lexicon. It's a gorgeous ballad with sweet Fairlight keys, some nice basic drum programming and lots of orchestration - strings, brass and voices combine and lead to a swelling, big finale. A forgotten classic.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

5ive Style

10 years ago various members of Chicago's post rock scene got together to record as 5ive Style. Tortoise drummer John Herndon and bassist LeRoy Bach (Wilco) were augmented by guitarist Bill Dolan (Heroic Doses) and keyboardist Jeremy Jacobsen (Lonesome Organist), and the resulting self-titled mini album was produced by John McEntire and Casey Rice. That's some serious Chi-town music mojo at work. The music is a bit more light hearted and funky than you might expect, and even touches on a bit of jam band spirit in places. I've always loved it's vibe - low key, lots of cool guitars and a hefty helping of quirk. Deep Marsh is rifftastic, with loads of noodly guitars and the sound of a tea kettle whistle blowing through the whole thing. I like how it goes all blues-y at the end. Outta Space Canoe Race is spongy space funk - an almost reggae vibe permeates, with a fat beat, fuzzy bass, jammy guitars and big rock organ. I hadn't played this in a while and had forgotten how much I dug it. They followed this up with another record, 2000's Miniature Portraits, but it failed to live up to my expectations.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Baroque Social Scene

Broken Social Scene have been blogged a lot this year, but not too many people have mentioned the bonus disc of music that comes with their latest self-titled release. Called The E.P. To Be You And Me, it's seven tracks of the more experimental side of what they do. It appeals to me because much of it is electronic in nature. They have always used electronics to embellish their mostly indie rock sound, but some of these tracks reverse that logic. Baroque Social Scene has a clattery, rickety rhythm over which the band throws glitchy keys, a bit of guitar, lots of trippy effects and little shards of noise. It ambles instrumentally to nowhere in particular, but I like it. No Smiling Darkness is also instrumental, but more of a low key ballad. It is driven by guitar, and slowly builds into a mellow, shuffle-y groove. Lots of pretty noises going nowhere in particular again, but that's the kind of mood I'm in today.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Capture / Release

The Rakes are another sharp and angular British four piece that are making a bit of a splash with their debut LP Capture / Release. I had heard the Retreat EP back in October, and knew right away I would like the album. Unfortunately it is only available as an import in the US, and I haven't seen a release date yet. Unwilling to wait, I picked up a copy of the import. I dig it. They fall squarely into the Bloc/Franz/Maximo/Kaisers realm of music - fast and jittery tunes with lots of post punk flavor and big shouty choruses abound. I'm a big fan of British singers who sound like they're British, and Alan Donohoe fits the bill. I know some of you will find this stuff to be "too late to the party" - you haters can move along. I still get a kick out of this stuff. I did back when it was fresh and new in the late '70s and early '80s, and I still do today. These London lads tell amusing, true to life stories, sort of like The Streets, but obviously much harder rocking. One of their earliest singles was 22 Grand Job, a 1:46 burst of snarky satire of the 9-to-5-working-in-the-city routine. I find the guitars on this to be completely addictive, and I love Alan's sneer-y tone. Short, sharp and brilliant. A more low key approach is taken on Binary Love. It's still a propulsive, snaky, riff driven tune, but it's embellished with some nice shimmering new wave-y synths, and has a lovely melancholic feel to it's love story lyrics.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Bevy Of Beauties

Madonna's Get Together is very popular at my house. My daughters, ages soon-to-be 2 and soon-to-be 6, are in love with the first 4 or 5 songs from Madge's new record, and spin and dance around the living room - much to my amusement of course. I like about half of the record myself, and am happy that she decided to work with her live band leader Stuart Price (AKA Les Rythmes Digitales) this time around.

Metric's recent album Live It Out has been blogged about a lot. It's been a couple of months now, and I want to get my 2¢ in. It is a much harder rocking affair with less emphasis on the new wave synths. Normally I'd be lamenting that, and at first I wasn't convinced, but I stuck with it and have warmed up to the album. Glass Ceiling is a good example of the harder sound, with it's big, meaty guitar riff intro. It's also got wierd honky tonk piano, cool rat-a-tat drums in the chorus, and Emily Haines' vocals are always pleasing to my ears.

British indie art rockers Broadcast also got blogged a fair amount earlier in the year. They slimmed to a two piece and released Tiny Buttons. It didn't get the greatest reviews, but I really like it. It sounds less fascinated with Stereolab and a bit more electronically inclined. These are both good things. I particularly like Black Cat with it's glitched out beats and distortion. The song has a lovely, almost nursery rhyme like melody. It never really builds up to anything bigger, but I enjoy it's spaced out buzz.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Funky Friday's Coming On Strong

British duo Hot Chip's debut LP Coming On Strong was released in May of 2004 in the UK. The NME desribed the album as "genre-hopping future-funk held together with elastic bands" & "as witty and inventive as the finest pop songs." Last week saw Astralwerks give it a proper US release, and they've added three bonus tunes to it. It's a fun and funky album. My first reaction to it was that it reminded me of the Beta Band - lo-fi, indie slacker stuff. But Hot Chip take that foundation and add a hefty dose of black American funk. Where Beta Band did the kind of British Beck-meets-Floyd-thing, this is music enamored of Prince and G-funk and Sly & the Family Stone, all mixed up with the oddball quirk of Ween, a dash of classic '70s 10cc and then slathered in that lovely, warm and litling spaciness of the same era's reggae. Alexis Taylor's voice is wistfully indie in that distinctly British way, and it's a real blast hearing "gangsta" lyrics crooned in such a way - he sings about blasting Yo La Tengo with the top down. I am really loving it a lot. It's both groovy and humorous, and always leaves me with a smile. Enjoy one of their first singles, Down With Prince, which is a song so full of Prince-ly sounds that it's pretty much a tribute. Keep Fallin' bumps on an old school beat that mixes hip hop with mellow reggae vibes and some crazy ass lyrics about Stevie Wonder seeing stuff. The tune is super catchy - hear it twice and you're humming along. The breakdown is blissfully cool, and the tune fades out on a wickedly funky chorus of kazoos. Yeah, kazoos bringing the funk. Highly recommended.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Leaders Of The Free World

Elbow are, I've found, a band whose music never jumps out at you on the first or even second listen. Their first two albums were sonically similar, the product of a mellow, somewhat proggy indie rock band prone to moments of sweeping beauty. I think about them this way - they are making the Peter Gabriel records that Peter Gabriel doesn't make anymore - you know, the classic '80s records. Guy Garvey's voice even has it's Gabriel-esque moments. The songs are things full of melodrama and emotion, with growling, low key riffs that soar into pretty choruses, and with only a few songs "rocking" in the traditional style. The music touches on the rock of Radiohead, The Doves and The Super Furries. Their songs tend to be epic and slow to unfold.
As usual it's taken a while for their latest album Leaders Of The Free World to sink in. It is a great album. They take all they've done so far and distill it into a more concise yet still musically powerful set of tunes. And they appear to have found a bit of funky rhythm - their songs have often had a wee bit of groove, but several tracks here are downright funky. The emotion and drama are still intact, it's just easier to get at. Picky Bugger is ALL about the groove - it rides a big, swampy, Tom Waits riff, and Guy gets his falsetto on. It's a lovely bit of spartan, melancholic funkiness. Mexican Standoff is also surprisingly uptempo, kicking of with latin handclaps before a twangy guitar zooms into the mix. A swoony, slinky rocker with one hell of a guitar solo. This tune rocks harder that anything they've done, I reckon.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

My '80s Remastered - Vienna

In 1980 the British art rock band Ultravox had begun a new phase in their career. Lead singer and song writer John Foxx had recently left the band to pursue a solo career and the remaining members tapped former Rich Kids guitarist Midge Ure to be the band's new singer. The first fruit of this new union was the album Vienna. The title track was a moody power ballad that mixed spartan electronics, a rocking break and huge dollops of popmpous moodiness. It captured the hearts of the public, dominated the charts, and sent the band on it's way to stardom in the UK - the next few years were very good for the band. Of all the Midge Ure led albums, Vienna is my favorite - things get a bit too grandiose and swelling as the years go by. I recently got my hands on the 2000 remaster of it. I have to say that after 25 years it still sounds pretty damn good. It has four bonus tracks and the black and white video for the title track. The album kicks off with a strong one two punch - Astradyne is a muscular, prog/art rock meets new wave track - loads of synths, big chunky bass, loads of atmosphere and a deliciously squiggly solo. It leads straight into New Europeans - another big rocking track that makes good use of a giant "London Calling"-ish guitar riff. It also features some funny, cheesy lyrics - one of Midge's strengths as a songwriter, and a nice, rolling piano solo. This song for me is all about the guitar - it kicks.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Romance Bloody Romance

Last week I picked up the new collection of remixes and b-sides from Canadian indie rocker duo Death From Above 1979 called Romance Bloody Romance. The original tracks are from the You're A Woman, I'm A Machine album that came out at the beginning the year. I do not own that record. I have heard a couple of tracks from it. I also really like the track they did on the Bloc Party Remixed set that came out a few months back. I am a sucker for the remix so I took the plunge. You get mixes by Justice, Erol Alkan, Masterkraft (AKA Sebastien Grainger, one half of DFA'79), Phones, Jesper Dahlback and a few others. I really am enjoying these mixes, so much so that I think I will be picking up the original album. I particularly dig these two mixes of the same song, Black History Month, with it's quirky lyrics and memorable refrain. Black History Month (Alan Braxe & Fred Falke Remix) has the French disco factor dialed up to 11 - crisp beats, a gloriously chunky bass riff and fantastically tight, '80s metal guitar riffs paired with a shimmering chorus that will take you back to the glory days of Daft Punk and Bob Sinclar. Black History Month (Josh Homme Remix) is not disco in the least. The first couple of minutes are about spooky ambience, then a rudimentary beat kicks in and you get some blasts of riffage before it all spaces out again. A couple of cool and varied takes that really carry the stamp of the remixers! And what a marvellously creepy cover.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables

The seminal Dead Kennedys album Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables turned 25 this year. A couple of weeks back saw the release of the 25th anniversary edition, remastered with the help of guitarist East Bay Ray. It's packaged in a slipcase cover and features a replica of the 2 sided poster that came with the original. It sounds as inflammatory as ever, and thanks to the digital remastering it's nice and clean and LOUD. It's a seething mix of acerbic ranting courtesy of Jello Biafra, and some crazy surf punk music. It's unrelenting. From the opening salvo of Kill The Poor - raging punk with an insanely catchy chorus as well as lyrics that are so confrontational and anti "The Man" - it goes on to call for lynching the landlord, rails on chemical warfare, and delivers a couple of stone cold punk classics in California Über Alles and Holiday In Cambodia before closing out the album with a unique and glorious take on Viva Las Vegas that has Jello's glorious quiver on full throttle. Great stuff.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Funky Friday - It's Like That

Run DMC's first four albums got the expanded remastered treatment back in September. Anybody who knows will tell you how influential they were for their genre. They brought hip hop to the masses, pioneered the mixing of product placement (My Adidas) and style, and kick started a whole new kind of music - the rap rock hybrid. Each disc features extra tracks - remixes, demos, live stuff and radio spots, much of it previoulsy unreleased. It's rap in it's most primitive form - beats and MC's. That changes over the years, but the basic blueprint always remained. Fresh rhymes, dope beats and lots of good memories. Enjoy three selections, including a demo version of a Beastie Boys tune. And no Walk This Way, although the demo version of it is a fascinating look at the early stages of the song, and features some great guitar riffing by Joe Perry. Put on your shelltoes and Kangols and take a ride down memory lane...

It's Like That

Slow And Low (Demo)

It's Tricky

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Skalpel are Marcin Cichy and Igor Pudlo. The Polish duo are DJ/producers who have spent the last few years digging in the crates, building a slick (and pretty much unheard) collection of samples from Polish jazz records. They then contruct their own tunes from the bits and pieces, adding beats and keys and scratches. The end result is Konfusion, their second LP for the venerable NinjaTune label. It's a smokey, crackly bunch of tunes that move from spy theme cinematics to blacksploitation riffs with a nod to hip hop and a bit of dance stuff. And lots of jazziness - '60s and '70s style abstract. It is a smokin' set of modern jazz tunes that comes with an equally smokin' bonus disc of remixes. Deep Breath is from the album disc - sci-fi keys melt into one hell of a bass line, speckled with organ, some gorgeous horn snippets, and a lovely bit of female vocals. This gets my head nodding every time. 1958 (Quantic Remix) is from disc 2. As implied in the title, it's a Quantic remix and it's aimed squarely at the dancefloor. It's a burbling bit of jazzy, leftfield house thats got great drum programming, a wicked bit of clavinet in the break and a nice spaced out feel to it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Dios (Malos)

Dios (Malos) used to be called dios. A year or so ago they were contacted by lawyers in the employ of diminutive metal god Ronnie James Dio. Apparently the metal imp thought that the band dios could be easily confused with himself and sued them to stop using the name. They complied by adding (Malos). Their latest album is a self titled affair that picks up where their last one left off. These guys write Californian (they're from Hawthorne, CA) slacker rock in the vein of Grandaddy or Neil Young. They also like to throw in the occasional Beatles reference, and are aces at the stoner rock anthem. Grrrl is pure '70s pop radio gold - a strummy riff, sunny vocals and melodies - it's a short burst of shiny pop perfection. I Want It All is shimmery, sad guy rock. These dudes have a real knack for melody, and this one is no exception. I love the drum sound on it - so big. I also really like the handclappy break halfway through. A lovely, rootsy album full of memorable tunes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Black Acetate

John Cale turned 63 this year. The Welsh art rocker, former Velvet Underground member and sometime Eno collaborator released one of his hardest hitting records ever to celebrate. Black Acetate jettisons most of the hip electronics that were all over his last LP, Hobosapien (produced by Nick Franglen from Lemon Jelly). This record is all about power trio rock, with a bit of electro embellishment added for occasional effect. It's powerful stuff, loud and aggressive and riff-tastic. Turn The Lights On means business from the get go - big snarling riff, John's booming baritone, that fierce squalling solo. It's heavy stuff for such an old geezer. Hush is more experimental like some of the material from the last album. It's sparse, squlechy art funk - a basic beat, wah wah guitars, lots of vocal interplay and effects. A loud and in my face album that is one of my fave rock records of the year.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Spoon vs. John McEntire

Spoon's latest single is Sister Jack, a track from their recent LP Gimme Fiction. The "b-side" (it is a CD single) has the previously unreleased Sunday Morning Wednesday Night, the video for the title track, and a John McEntire remix of another track from the LP, I Turn My Camera On. In it's original form it's a super sparse slow jam - vaguely funky and minimal. McEntire applies his sonic magic, beefing up the beats, adding watery effects and punching up the vocals. The end result is almost gangsta in it's feel - sounds crazy, eh? Spoon have always had a heavily danceable appeal to their music, so it's cool to hear that played up. Here's I Turn My Camera On (John McEntire Remix).

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sunday Special Request - Doot Doot

NickFRESH just found this old post from October, and commented on how much he needed this tune. I am happy to oblige...

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Freur predated Prince in one special way - the use of a glyph as their name. Look at the cover above - the circle with the zig zaggy line coming off it is the band's name. It was a silly gimmick, and one their label knew would make it hard to sell records, so they asked them to change it. Instead, the band then came up with a way to pronounce the glyph - Freur. Freur are also notable because it's the earliest recordings of Karl Hyde and Rick Smith, who of course went on to become Underworld, the titans of '90s electronica. The music here is a mix of prog rock and synth-pop. It seems like a deadly combination, but somehow on the tune Doot Doot (12" Version) it works for me. The vocals are classic Karl Hyde - the cadence, the way he sings words - it's all there. The song was a minor hit in the British charts, and I've always loved it's oddness. It still sounds pretty good today, although the drums at the end are a bit dodgy in that gated, '80s syn-drummy way. Its a nice bit of psychedelic pop that slowly builds from trippy, cricket chirping mellowness to full on, blip laden proggy pounding. The band failed to have any kind of real success, split up, and Karl and Rick went on the form version 1.0 of Underworld. The rest is history.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Funky Friday's The One For You

I'm short on time today so it's a quickie post. D Train's debut single, 1981's You're The One For Me, is today's funky flashback, a classic slice of electro disco. It features some absolutely fab synth squiggling, booming production and slick arrangements by Hubert Eaves III. Over this big electro-disco track you get the deep gospel voice of James "D Train" Williams. And a catchier than shit chorus. This is the tasty 12" remix - I'm not sure who did this mix as the mp3 wasn't properly tagged. Both François Kevorkian and Paul Hardcastle did remixes, so it could be either - it sounds closer to Hardcastle's style to me. I especially like the breakdown - key solo, vocal riffing, then the track builds up again. James' vocals after the break are great - full of life and funk. A stompingly good tune to send you on your merry weekend way.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

My '80s Remastered - Touch

Earlier in the week I did a Eurythmics post that covered their debut LP Sweet Dreams. I also picked up a copy of it's follow up, Touch. it's another album full of gorgeous hits like Here Comes The Rain Again and Who's That Girl?. It's got it's quirks - the calypso funk of Right By Your Side, and it has it's emotionally big moments too - No Fear, No Hate, No Pain. While I love this record, I don't think it has aged as well sonically as Sweet Dreams - there are a few of those more dated sounding productions, although the remastering goes some way towards fixing that. There are seven extra tracks on this, including the previously unreleased take on the David Bowie/John Lennon nugget Fame. While it's not exactly a classic take, it's still interesting to hear. I like the burbly rhythms, and the rest of it is really all about Annie's voice. Another recommended remaster.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Roots Home Grown!

Philly crew The Roots have been dropping knowledge on the masses for over a decade now, combining the awesomeness of the live, band driven groove with the thought provoking raps of Black Thought. Their records have had their classic moments, and their live show is the stuff of hip hop legend. Last week saw the release of Home Grown! The Beginners Guide To Understanding The Roots. Curated by drummer extraordinaire Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, there are two seperate CDs (Vols. 1 & 2). The material comes from ?uestlove's archives, and features exclusive remixes, never before released tracks and lots of liner notes from the mighty stick man. It's a heady brew of beats and pieces from this experienced crew, and I still haven't fully digested it all. I love these guys - have all the records, seen 'em live. These two discs are a lot of fun. Today I give you one of my all time favorite Roots tunes, taken from Vol.1, and one that features the fabulous vibes playing of the legendary Roy Ayers - Hometro/Proceed 2 (Featuring Roy Ayers). It's one hell of a fat ass groove - tight drums, big thick bass lines, and those velvety smooth vibes slay me every time. This version was originally on the Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool compilation from 1994, and is a remake of a track that appeared on 1993's Do You Want More?!!!??!. Classic smokin' grooves.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Brasilian Post Punk '82-'88

As Mercenarias came to my attention earlier this year when several of their tracks appeared on a couple of cool compilations I had picked up - Nao Wave & The Sexual Life Of The Savages. Both featured Brasilian bands from the early to late '80s who took the post punk blueprint laid out by the Brits and Americans and added the flavor of Brazil - the language and the rhythms. As Mercenarias are an all girl group, playing punk-funk. Yes, they are still together after 25 years. Their music is tight, edgy, and danceable. It's everything that I could ask for in a post punk record. And their sounds fits in with today's scene very nicely. Soul Jazz records has released a compilation of the band's finest moments entitled Brasilian Post Punk 1982-88 - O Começo Do Fim Do Mundo. If you buy the vinyl you get a cool 7" of demos. The album kicks off with the springy, scratchy groove of Me Perco, and the later years are represented by the mellow-ish Lembranças with it's lovely guitars. Rumor has it that they will be touring Europe at the end of the year with a new lineup featuring two of the original girls plus a couple of new guys. Sounds like a pretty great show.

Monday, November 21, 2005

My '80s Remastered - Sweet Dreams

Last week saw RCA release the Eurythmics back catalogue in expanded remastered format. Dave Stewart helmed the remasters. They are available as single discs, or all bundled together in a box. Each album has extra tracks - b-sides, remixes, live recordings and previoulsy unreleased songs. Thee remasters are, as I've grown fond of saying, "the shit". I picked up the first 2 albums, Sweet Dreams and Touch, and plan on getting a few more as well. Sweet Dreams has really benefitted from the remastering - it sounds so much beefier, and the details are more pronounced. This was their big breakthrough album, and it covers a lot of ground. It's been a real blast rediscovering this record over the last week. I was afraid that it might sound a bit dated, but to my surprise it has aged pretty well. The thing with this duo is that they aren't jusy synthpop, although synthpop is a big part of the equation. There is Euro flavor, horns, a touch of art rock, and a hefty dose of experimentation. And that voice. Unique, and with such range, capable of going from angelic, operatic heights to down and dirty gruffness in a blink of an eye. I am still amazed at how beautiful her voice is. Combined with the quirky instrumentation of Dave Stewart, it all added up to something very cool and different, and it's still that way. From the opening salvo of Love Is A Stranger to album closer This City Never Sleeps there isn't a dud on it. It's class from start to finish. Instead of the big hits I'm sharing a personal fave track, This Is The House. It's got a persistent beat, a hugely funky bass riff, horns, lyrics in Spanish, blippy synths and scratchy guitars. Basically, a little bit of everything, perfectly balanced - it's all good. The bonus material is interesting - a couple of b-sides, a Giorgio Moroder remix of Love Is A Stranger, a Coldcut remix of Sweet Dreams, and a previously unreleased version of Lou Reed's Satellite Of Love. It's fascinating stuff, and if you are a fan you will really dig these!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Sweet 7"s of the '80s - Shake Shake!

Occasionally I am willing to take a special request. Kenny asked if I would repost some tracks that I originally wrote about in March of this year (under the title "An '80s Obscurity"). I've never come across anybody who has ever heard of Shake Shake!, and since the mp3s were still on my computer, here you go!

Shake Shake! were pretty much a one off. As far as I can tell they put out only one single, 1981's Shake Shake!, released on Tot Taylor's ultra hip early '80s indie label The Compact Organization - home to swanky looking and sounding popsters like Mari Wilson. Google has very little info to offer on them. A group of musicians and studio engineers who previously had worked on Swedish singer Virna Lindt's Attention Stockholm single, they included multi-instrumentalists Jo Dworniak and Duncan Bridgeman. There is a lot more info available on these two as they have continued to be involved in music over the years. Their next project was I-Level, a Britfunk trio (who will be the subject of tomorrow's Funky Friday post), and they also worked as session musicians - they appear on John Foxx's The Garden LP. Duncan continues to record, most recently under the name 1 Giant Leap, who in 2001 released an LP of world music mixed with electronica and lot's of high profile guest vocalists - folks like Michael Stipe, Babaa Maal, Asha Bhosle, Neneh Cherry and Michael Franti. But I digress - the two songs recorded as Shake Shake! are B-52's inspired, sorta funky new wave - the sleeve touts the music as "new songs for a new route" and also informs us that "Shake Shake! play funktional music for every function". Shake Shake! is gloriously herky-jerky in it's rhythms, and features fun female-male vocal interplay spouting lyrics about getting down to the beat. I love the sparseness - drums, bass, keys and the vocals all nicely balanced. Flip it over to the B-side and you get Yellow Ditty, a lurching post-punk dub thing. This track actually kind of reminds me of the music of M (Pop Muzik) - slightly wacky, definitely danceable oddball new wave.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Funky Friday's '80s Triple Play

I'm closing out "sweet 7's" week with some eighties soul stuff...

Gwen Guthrie - Ain't Nothin' Goin' On But The Rent
This is a tough as nails single from 1986. Take a fab disco diva voice, let NYC disco legend Larry Levan handle the production, and voila! - a stone cold classic with lyrics that cut against the grain. No "I love my man" shit here - it's realist vibe says "no romance without finance". Gwen is fierce on this electro disco classic 7" - "you've got to have a J.O.B. if you want to be with me". To which I say "yes, m'aam!"

Dennis Edwards - Don't Look Any Further
This 1984 single from this former Temptations singer features some great co-vocals from '80s r'n'b singer Siedah Garrett, as well as a very memorable groove. Samples of this song have been used by a bunch of folks, including Eric B & Rakim and Tupac. The bass line is classic, the key riff is ultra catchy, and the result is a smooth as butter slice of '80s soul that still sounds great to my ears today. Sweet.

Evelyn King - I'm In Love
The title track from her 1981 LP, this album saw the disco diva hook up with one time member of B.T. Express, Kashif. He wrote and produced this tasty tune, which rides a giant electro bass line. It's a very groovy, midtempo disco track with that balances electro and organic instruments and combines it all with Evelyn's distinctive, husky voice. Kashif's thick, funky electro grooves that you hear were sought out by all kinds of musicians of the era, and he would go on to cut records with Aretha, Whitney, George Benson, Al Jarreau and Melba Moore among others.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Sweet 7"s of the '80s - Listen To The Radio

Tom Robinson began his career in the '70s s part of the acoustic trio Café Society. Their debut album was produced by Ray Davies from the Kinks. According to Tom's bio it only sold about 600 copies. He was also an openly gay man - not a common thing at the time - and his experiences living in London's gay community informed his music. Inspired by having seen the Sex Pistols, he left Café Society and formed the Tom Robinson Band. They were homo-political pub-slash-proto-punk rockers, and they scored an early hit with the tune 2-4-6-8 Motorway. However, it was a tune from it's follow-up EP that gave him his most notorious moment - the live version of the song Glad To Be Gay was banned by the BBC. The ensuing album was big but the TRB fell apart. In the early '80s Tom moved on to front the hotly hyped Sector 27. They recorded one critically lauded album with Steve Lillywhite and then they too fell apart. In 1983 he returned to the British charts with a mellow ballad called War Baby - a great tune with a smokin' sax solo. I thought about posting that one, but instead decided to share the follow-up, a song that he co-wrote with Peter Gabriel called Listen To The Radio (Atmospherics). A moderately funky slow jam, it rides a chunky groove, features soulful back ups and lots of great horn parts (love the Guy Barker trumpet solo) as well as Tom's gruff, melancholic voice. A nice little piece of '80s obscurity.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Sweet 7"s of the '80s - 3 From New Musik

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New Musik were a late '70s / early '80s new wave band, the brainchild of producer/singer/songwriter Tony Mansfield. It was the kind of British power pop that Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello and Squeeze were doing, but with the added gleam of the shiny synthesizer's array of new sounds. I loved their songs, and I was sure that the average Joe would eat them up and propel them into the charts. Sad to say that didn't really happen. Their debut single Straight Lines reached the lower '50s, while the biggest hit they had was with their second single Living By Numbers - it got to number 13 on the British charts. I love the intro on this tune - that strummy riff, the hand claps, the dreamy keys. It's a lovely little slab of melancholic pop. The song of theirs I like the most? Easy - Sanctuary - I love the melody, the trippy sucking sound on some of the vocals, the cool new wave key parts. The highest it got in the charts? Number 31. IMO, they were a band that deserved much greater success than they ever had. Tony Mansfield went on to do a lot of production work for bands. Naked Eyes, After The Fire, A-ha, the B-52's, Vicious Pink and a host of others all benefitted from the modern shine he gave them.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sweet 7"s of the '80s - Souvenir

Yowsa! The day from hell conspired against a timely post today. The theme this week is all 7" single action all the time - "classic 7"s", if you will.

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark released the single Souvenir in 1981. Taken from the third (and breakthrough and often referred to as their "classic") album Architecture And Morality, it is a moody little ballad sung by "the other one" in the band, Paul Humphreys. It was a noticeable departure in sound for the duo. Gone are the rudimentary synths and drum programs, and in it's place are lush atmospherics and a drop dead gorgeous melody - so sweet and hooky. Paul's similarly softer voice compliments the tune's mood, the public dug it and it was a big chart hit. The single is particularly cool because the b-side songs are both really good too. Motion And Heart (Amazon Version) is a swanky, swinging re-recording of a song from their previous album Organisation, again reflecting a less metallic electronica. Sacred Heart is bit more experimental, mostly instrumental and spaced out electro - nice and blippy and floaty. All of these tunes are included on the 2003 remastered and expanded version of Architecture And Morality, as well as an extended version of Souvenir and a few other bits and bobs. A great 7".

Friday, November 11, 2005

Funky Friday's Classic 12" - Body Rock

Today I'm giving you some old school hip hop. OK, it's from 1998 so it's only seven years old, but it is from a mini golden age of hip hop that was spawned by the mid to late '90s indie rap power label Rawkus Records. Mos Def. Talib Kweli. Hi Tek. Pharoahe Monch. The Lyricist Lounge compilations. All of this talent came out of the label. It was almost a second coming of the "Native Tongues" - positive, funky, playful. In 2001 Rawkus sold out to MCA Records, and the ideals of the original label slowly faded away. But for a while there it was where it was at. Witness the freshness of 1998's Body Rock, a collaboration by Mos Def, A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip and West Cost rapper Tash. Over a supremely tight beat - feel that snare shot - producer Shawn J. Period lays a deep bass line and some seriously jazzy guitar licks - soft, George Benson style riffs. The rappers rip up the mike with all manner of humorous pop culture references and party lines. It's the shit, and another fine classic 12" performance.

[Mos Def]
Aight, uhh, alright y'all slow down I'm tryin ta
Aight, yo I I only took a little bit of Spanish you gotta
Aight I hear what you're sayin but yo, aight okay
Alright okay, alright okay okay
Alright okay, I'm feelin you, okay
Alright okay, alright okay okay
Alright okay, I'm feelin you yo
All my people in Brooklyn and you know we're hot, I say
We don't stop, the Body Rock
All my people in Queens and the land in between say we
Don't stop, the Body Rock
Shaolin and L-I say you know we're fly, say we
Don't stop, the Body Rock
From the East to the West son we take it to the chest say we
Don't stop, the Body Rock

Check me out y'all
I'm in the lab with Ab, I got the band they're fat
My man T-A-S-H take it to your breastplate
It's the Mighty Mos Def, complete the trilogy
Just shot myself a dime, see are you feelin me?
Son I'm wicked and nice when I'm on facility
Let me take a sec to review what I wrote.. *paper rustling*
.. "Mos Def and I sound par fresh" OK it's dope
let's record this ('cord this) they gonna want dis (want dis)
And all area crew is gonna flaunt this *clapping*
And when we step to the plate Pah it's flawless
My man T-A-S-H with styles glory great
Great, great great, great great uh uhh uh uhh uh uhh uh

Up next we got CaTash with that West coast rhymin
Bombin niggaz with the style that's dangerous as mountain climbin (ahhhh!)
Cause the Alkie words I'm spittin be twistin while you listenin
Plus I'm in this motherfucker with the Likwit coalition
Gotta leave you in position, twist it backwards like dough go
While you starin down my throat like, "Is he drunk or is he sober?"
WHO KNOWS, all I know is Tash got flows
and got the technique to get the ladies out of they clothes
I been overly exposed to the forty-oh's and chickens
So I'ma keep it pumpin til the beat stop kickin
or til the plot thickens, cause this is how we do
CaTashTrophe, Mos Def, and the brother man QUE!!!!

What's up Tash, hey yo, Tip can't call it
Sure as Mos is Def and you Alkaholik
I'ma be surfin at, thing that's worth dealin
Hypodermically, shoot up your feelin
Figuratively, speakin of course now
old and greedyness, seekin it's course now
what we gonna do, eradicate them
Shoot them from the jam, they fear disease

[Mos Def]
Tash Love... are you ready to rock the mic?
Q-Tip... are you ready to rock the mic!
Mos Def... are you ready to rock the mic?
We got the universal style that you got to like!
And ain't nobody steppin up when we got the mic
So turn the A.C. up cause it's hot tonight!
And til the bright early morn' we be rockin you all
Don't stop, the Body Rock!

Cause I'm next to flex, and I'm technically advanced
to turn you on like cybersex, so in less than two sec's
I blind MC's like Thomas Dolby with the Science that'll leave
they braincells fryin slowly (FIRE!) so slowly I flow and
express written consent, from the undergroundin niggaz
Coast II Coast I represent cause gettin bent, I do
but I'm doper than sherm plus the way I put it down
could burn the perm off Big Worm, so peace and pipe this greeting
of the Last Action Hero that be freezin rappers dead in they tracks
like Sub Zero (Zero), cause Rico ain't no joke
I eat your flows and yo' beat up rappers even feel my presence
when I'm home with my feet up

[Mos Def]
for what you skied up or treed up
Relax and pull a seat up, make your landlord turn the heat up
Got the opposition shook like Tiger Woods about to tee up
So niggaz no competition with the clear Mos Definition
MC's screamin now for years can't rhyme without they mom's permission
You just a young'un comin out, gettin gassed to run your mouth
Wildin on the Runabout, Baby Pah you comin out
Barkin that you want a bout but son you know the comeabout
when Mos Def blow up and, you don't, nuttin
Don't you know nuttin? My crew go huntin
We keep it on the norm then we transform som'in
And while, we do it, you bounce to it
The cops wanna stop the Body Rock but don't do it

DY-NO-MITE!!! Like Jimmy J.J.
Swap down pen-ny, somewhere in L.A. (A)
Now we got to bond like Voltron (tron)
Tash you the bomb, Mos you the won ton (ton)
Q will pick the lead, I must drop on thee (thee)
A-B-S, I bust down, facility (ty)
T-R-A-C-T is the MC (cee)
It's the LL, inside the place to be (be)

[Mos Def]
Tash Love... are you ready to rock the mic?
Q-Tip... are you ready to rock the mic!
Mos Def... are you ready to rock the mic?
We got the universal brothers that you got to like!
Now ain't nobody steppin up when we got the mic
So turn your A.C. up cause it's hot tonight!
And til the bright early morn' we'll be rockin you all
Don't stop, the Body Rock!

All my people out in Queens that know you're hot, you say
Don't stop, the Body Rock!
All my people out in Brooklyn and you know we're hot, say
Don't stop, the Body Rock!
Shaolin to L-I and you know we're fly, said
Don't stop, the Body Rock!
All the people on the Greens and the land in between said
Don't stop, the Body Rock!

... no stoppin
... no stoppin
Out in Jersey ... no stoppin
Philadelp-i-I ... no stoppin
Chi Town gettin down ... the playgrounds
Detroit you say ... no stoppin
In Cali ... no stoppin
And the great V-A ... no stoppin
Cause in the Brooklyn town ... no stoppin
And the Boogie Down ... no stoppin
L-I and Queens ... no stoppin
And you see Medina Greens ... no stoppin
You know we, Lyricist Lounge ... no stoppin
And my man Abstract ... no stoppin
Cause see we never the wack ... no stoppin
Don't stop, the Body Rock
D-dah, don't stop

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Classic 12"s of the '90s - Fluke

Fluke were a dreamy pop act that first appeared on the scene on 1989. Over the next few years they adapted their sound and included elements of acid and prog house, trip hop and techno rock. They were able to cash in on the "electronica" movement of the mid '90s, particularly with their '97 LP Risotto and it's big hit single Atom Bomb. At that time I also picked up the 12" for Absurd - it has a smokin' Mighty Dub Katz remix of the title track that I used to love mix with - very big-beaty and chunky. My fave track on it though is the Global Communication remix of an older single from 1993, Slid. Tom Middleton & Mark Pritchard's take on Slid (The Hypogasmic Mix) is a sublimely chilled piece of pillow-y house music that kicks off with a simple metronomic click, and then gradually adds layer after layer of smooth, soft synth washes and sequences and "wah wah wah" vocals. It's a lovely, "drifting off into space" kind of a track, and it really stands apart from all of the big beat stuff that it shares vinyl space with. As a result it has aged a lot better!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Classic 12"s of the '90s - Radio Babylon

Meat Beat Manifesto's single Helter Skelter was released in the US in May of 1990. It featured Helter Skelter as the A-side, and it's B-side was Radio Babylon. Helter Skelter had a clattering breakbeat, dub and industrial elements, odd vocal snippets - "it's in my brain" & "this is it!" - and was pretty much the pinnacle of their output to this point. It was a perfect distillation of all that they had tried, and saw them perfect the trademark Meat Beat sounds - rumbling bass, submarine pings, that sort of thing. As much as I love Helter Skelter, it is Radio Babylon that hits me the hardest. Made up of a bunch of the parts of it's A-side, it was a spacier mix that boasted more roots reggae appeal. From it's opening beeps, "Babylons" and menacing bassline and the crucial "burning with ecstasy" blurb it rumbles on to shred your speaker cones with vital energy and "riddims full of culture, y'all". In the end it remains, IMO, one of electronic dance music's greatest moments.
Section 25 Redux

Yesterday's Section 25 post had me telling you about how I had really wanted to share the B-side mix of the single Looking From A Hilltop. However, I was foiled by a huge scratch at the beginning of the track, so settled on recording the A-side version instead. Well, due to the greatness of this here interweb thingy, my mate across the pond Phillip has "hooked me up". There was an e-mail in my inbox from him this morning, and contained within it was an mp3 rip of the B-side mix, taken from the digitally remastered 1998 reissue of From The Hip. So now I'm happy to say you can hear the tune I intended you to hear in the first place. Enjoy the deliciously huge, pounding electro grooves of Looking From A Hilltop Megamix, and when the percussive, trippy, backtracked breaks in the middle hit you, you'll know why I love this version so much!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Classic 12"s of the '80s - Looking From A Hilltop

Section 25 were one of the lesser known acts on legendary Mancunian label Factory Records. Formed in Blackpool in 1978 and named after a health provision code, they began as an indie rock trio, their earliest FAC records produced by Ian Curtis and Rob Gretton, then Martin Hannett. Over the course of the early '80s they added a couple of lovely ladies to help with vocals and synths, added lots of drum machines, and went on to write an early page in the book of what would soon be known as acid house. Their 1984 LP From The Hip was produced by Bernard Sumner and included the giant electro-pop anthem that is Looking From A Hilltop. I had wanted to give you the B-side version of this tune, which is a largely instrumental remix that is flat out HUGE, but the vinyl has developed a nasty scratch that makes it pretty much unplayable. The A side is still pretty good tho' - a pounding, Kraftwerk-ian beat, massed banks of swirling synths and sequencers, topped off with mournful vocals. I love the beats on this - they just keep growing as the tune goes on. Apparently the band is still active - they have a website ( and there is even talk of new music.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Classic 12"s of the '80s - Set The Tone

Set The Tone were a short lived (and pretty much unknown - googling will give you almost nothing) early '80s band that featured Kenny Hyslop, drummer for The Skids and then for the Simple Minds. They released a couple of singles and an LP - really more of an EP, as it only has 6 songs on it, before disbanding. They were a hard edged dance act that mixed tough beats with dubbed out punk funk. I can't remember if I heard them on the radio or had just read about them when I picked up their first single, 1982's Dance Sucker, appearing here in it's 12"-full-on-Francois Kevorkian-remixed glory. I fell in love with the song instantly, with it's hard assed groove, huge spongy synth bass and scratchy guitars. I also liked the aggressive vocals, all shouty and loud. It was so much thicker and beefier sounding than so many of the other things on the radio at the time, largely due to the ace production of Island Records' house whiz Steven Stanley. Of course it failed to make a dent in the charts - pah! I say. I stand by it today as a fierce call to get your ass on the floor and dance, and in light of the resurgence of all things post-punk and funk, it stills sounds pretty good.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Funky Friday's Hot (Remix) Action

juan maclean goldfrapp

A couple of cool singles from The Juan MacLean and Goldfrapp hit record shelves this week. The Goldfrapp EP is called Number 1, features 2 versions of the title track, two other songs and a Tiefschwarz remix of Ooh La La. The CD single also has the video for the title track. I love this band, and like this EP a lot. I do have to admit that I'm a bit pissed off at their label, Mute Records, tho'. The album is out in Europe now, but it's US release has been pushed back to March of next year - what's the point of that? Dumbass corporate suits. That having been said, enjoy the Franco-disco-fied version of Number 1 (Alan Braxe & Fred Falke Remix) - a very groovy, space-y take that strips the song of it's glammy stomp and replaces it with a disco one instead. I like the bit in the middle too, where it goes all slow for a minute.

The Juan MacLean single is for one of the standout tracks from the debut album, Give Me Every Little Thing. The remixes are handled by X-Press 2, Cajmere, Eric B. and my fave mix is Give Me Every Little Thing (Putsch '79 Remix), which brings even more '80s electro flavor to the tune. It kicks off with a Linn drum beat straight out of 1982, and from there it's '80s synth squiggle heaven.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Nine Horses

Nine Horses is a one-off collaboration involving David Sylvian, his brother (and former Japan drummer) Steve Jansen and electronic experimentalist Burnt Friedman. It also features contributions from Ryuichi Sakamoto and Stina Nordenstam. The resulting album is a beautiful set of tracks that are some of the most commercially accessible music Sylvian has done in a while - since at least the first couple of solo LPs. Don't think for a second that I mean it has the chart busting appeal of the old Japan hits, although this is the closest he's been in years. This is still very artful stuff, but there are more traditionally structured songs on here, with beats and hooks, and even a few slightly rockist (!) moments. Lyrically Sylvian surveys both personal (the end of his marriage) and political relationships (the world post 9/11) and their ups and downs. It's a nice blend of David's mournful croon, Jansen's shifting rhythms and Burnt's electronics. Serotonin is a shuffling, burbling art funk tune that sounds very much to me like what Japan would sound like today if they were still recording - think Art Of Parties and you're not too far removed. It's a lovely record. It's interesting to me that some twenty five years on from when I first encountered David Sylvian, his work is still capable of moving me. It's great to see such creative longevity.